Prepare yourself because this is going to be totally meta and breathtakingly
wise :D (lol, at this point please take a moment to not over-estimate the intelligence of my ramblings)
I have spent some time thinking recently about what ~type of woman~
I want to be and what my personal strengths and weaknesses are. Now, unsurprisingly, my head immediately relates this to the antics of my favourite fictional women on my favourite tv shows. What can I say? Sometimes I measure my own reality by the standards created in fiction. I know i'm not alone.
Anyway it got me thinking, more about fiction than myself, it is easier. What do we really want from our female characters?
It is very hard for a TV show character to be considered Strong
or a good female character
but what does that even mean? To be a strong female character? When considering a female character how critical should we be of the writers intention, conscious or unconscious, or their subconscious isms
? At what point do we look at a female character as an autonomous agent? Or should we at all? Of course we have to remember through all of this we never ask what makes a strong male character?
Or what is the authors intention when he makes 'male character A' a father?
When if 'Female character A' is a mother, as many women in the real world are, it is a fine line between Strength and Stereotype.
I know we are trying to ensure that there are good role models on television for young women to look up to but is there a point in which it becomes impossible to live up to an expectation? Or is it irrelevent because fiction is by nature a heightened experience and ultimately cannot be transferred anyway?
For instance I will firstly use the example of Stargate SG1
. Jack and Daniel are well loved characters. Both men. Both different. (I would include Teal'c but there are some definite race issues there that I do not feel well informed enough to comment on although he is never not a 'strong man') Whereas Sam, the only steady female character for 8 seasons, is loved or hated (I am using fandom as a measure of course because it is fandom that decrees who is strong and who is weak) She's strong because she likes math and science, not only does she like them but she is amazing at them, she saves the day, she is reliable, and all her other many good qualities (pretty!!! /shallowness undermines thinking :D) On the other hand she is 'perfect' to the point of Mary-Sue (which is apparently the worst crime in fiction history) She is in love with her man-boss, 20 anti women points there, she is subordinate to the men, she gets attached and teary when children are around blah blah.
So is she strong or is she weak? Apparently the jury is still out.
It's so difficult for Samantha Carter. Of course I am not expecting everyone to be pleased by a single portrayal of womanhood on tv because that would defeat the point of diversity but should it really be that difficult for a woman to be accepted.
How about the case of poor Betty Draper
? Now I don't even watch Mad Men but I know she is hated. One day I came across this link
:“We all said we wanted Betty to get in touch with her anger, but we expected that anger to look admirable and positive and feminist. We didn’t consider that it might just be anger. That she might just not bother to think about how she was serving the world or women or the audience when she finally got to the point of rage.
We wanted Betty to read The Feminine Mystique and get her mind blown and rise above; or, we wanted her to stay a victim, so we could relate to her better, or at least keep feeling sorry for her. But sometimes, people just get damaged until they start damaging. Sometimes, people are lost. We hate Betty now because she’s not going to stay a victim, but the truth is, she’s also not going to be saved.”
This is a perfect assessment, yes the writers chose to go this direction with the character, and yes maybe it isn't the most positive direction, maybe she should of become a ~better woman~ but she didn't. I know fiction isn't reality but how about we appreciate the realness
of the women on our TV.
Which links beautifully to Caprica
which is a show filled with interesting and flawed characters and one in particular that I love; Amanda Graystone. I am new to the show but I have noticed that lots of people call her weak, whiney and annoying but I personally adore her. She has suffered and she is reacting, she is not taking it well, she is not being strong, she isn't doing a lot about anything at all, she has failed her family and she hates life. What would fandom rather she did? To be a strong character what should Amanda Graystone do about her world? Is it not ok for her to react like this? Is it not OK to sometimes be overwhelmed in our lives? Are we to be effcieint and effective in our dealinsg with our emotions? Also what is more important; that she is written as our collective idea of a 'strong woman' or that she is written as an individual?
So far we have found that you have to be flawed because you can't be perfect (which in itself is a ridiculous measure of personality) but you can't be too flawed because then you're weak.
Way to make it easy out there in the big bad world of fiction for women fandom. Of course don't forget you have to be pretty and - for all it's posturing about loving women's bodies - thin.
A very good example of conflict I feel personally over the storng female character
is Olivia Dunham of Fringe. Now I watched about 6 episodes of Fringe, it was a good show, there was no particular reason I never finished but now I doubt I ever will. There is a lot of Olivia worship on tumblr and that's fine, this whole post is about loving women for whoever they are i'm not about to start telling you who not to love! But one thing about people who love Olivia is that when some of them give reasons for Olivia being the best female character (which is a legitimate opinion) is that she isn't like other women who wear make up or like girly things. She is a badass.
(there is other things where she is better than all other women but I can't remember now) OK, so that's fine, i'm not going to teleport 50 years in the past and say all women must wear dresses and like pink and be hairdressers or something. BUT so what if I like pink and wear a dress everyday? What if I like painting my nails red and I like kissing boys? I like brushing my hair and smelling of flowers, so fucking what?
Maybe this is the root of the problem (I hope you realise this is a little bit train of consciousness rather than an eloquently written essay. oops) Maybe we have spent so long insisting that society's woman mold is wrong
that now things associated with it are considered weak rather than a legitimate choice. We have fought so hard to be allowed to be like boys
do what they do, wear trousers and work long hours, that now when we do things that are considered what women do or what women like
there is something wrong with us. What is so wrong with being a ~*girly*~ woman?
Nothing. Likewise not conforming to ~*girly*~ things is equally allowed. Either way is right, no one should dictate women's actions.
Now Buffy, she is a beautiful example of strong female character, although some would still argue (more about Joss really than Buffy herself) but personally I believe Joss creates amazing female characters. But, realistically, we aren't all Buffy. Maybe you're more of a Willow? or an Anya? Or Dawn? or Darla? or maybe you are crazy pants like Drusilla? These women aren't regularly spouted as strong female characters
but it's all ok. I still think you're an excellent woman.
What about sexism or mild misogyny in the writing? Many writers get accused of it. Steven Moffat, Joss Whedon, Darlton, the entire staff at Mad Men. Kate and Juliet of Lost fame are an excellent example of the battle of strong woman verses strong woman and the pain of awful writing. Fandom would still battle it out for who is better, I too have a preference, but is that really helpful?
I think one of the initial triggers to this unintelligible spiel was the Strong Female Character Flow Chart
that was making the rounds a couple of weeks ago, I saw it all over tumblrrr and I even saw it on the Huffington Post (LOOK! I found it just in case you wanted to look Flowchart
) And I am glad I searched for it because it just reinforces EVERYTHING I am saying. This is a quote from the Huffington Post;The site OverThinkingIt.com has made this fabulous flowchart to see if you in fact have a strong female character in your film or TV show. None of these ladies measure up (which is sad) but the site's take-downs are as hilarious as they are comprehensive.
(I just want to say that I haven't read the overhtingit article I shouldn't really hope but maybe there is some irony in there?)
None of these females measure up? Excuse me? Firstly the world wouldn't even dream of making on of these for Strong Men
The whole thing is ridiculous. Secondly not all characters carry a story so we fall down at the first hurdle in many cases. What does 'being three dimensional' even mean? You can't be strong and represent an idea? Surely all fiction is about representing an idea of the real world, using it as a vehicle for opinions and new ideas. Essentially it is saying that all of the women featured in the flow chart aren't strong. So Zoe isn't? Nor River? Or Ellen Ripley badass alien fighter? Or Sarah Connor who gave everything she had for her son? Not strong? nope? Just a mother. OK, thanks overthinkit.com. To be fair the whole thing is a bloody mess.
What is wrong with being the 'villian'? What's wrong with having lots of cats? Of loving a man? Or loving a woman? And your actions being for someone else?
The media and fandom's obsession with this almost unattainable 'Strong Female Character' archetype just undermines the wealth of interesting, flawed and painfully real women we can see everyday on television. Of course I am not saying that sometimes writers make mistakes, of course they do, and i'm not saying all female characters are amazing just that the obsession with achieving impossible strength is detrimental rather than helpful.
I know a lot of this doesn't necessarily apply to my flist and none of this is a criticism of any of you. I know so many of you love flawed female characters; you love Adelle and Irina, Laura 'Air-lock' Roslin and Sophie Devereaux, Helen Magnus and Dana Scully, and Cara and Kara!
Maybe at the end of the day words like strength
should be ignored. All women are female and everybody has their strengths, everyone has their good qiualities, all people deserve to be celebrated; fictional or otherwise. I'm not telling you who to love, what characters to appreciate, idolize or fangirl. I'm just asking that maybe when a female character doesn't immediately add up to your preordained check list of strength you could cut her some slack. Maybe there are Samantha Carter's out there who are good at science and math, or Betty Drapers whose lives are messed up versions of their dreams, or Amanda Graystones who contemplate suicide, or Lisa Cuddys who realise after doing so well in their careers that actually they do want children, or Alex Drakes who are so sure of themselves but sometimes falter, make mistakes.
It takes all types of people to make up the world. All types of men and all types of women.Now please spam me with characters you love and why!
Or discuss anything I've said? :D
(tomorrow I am going to make a picspam to go with this rant, pretty pictures make feelings better)
I realise no one probably read all of this it is totally tl;dr.